June 7, 2016

SSDS Alumnus Mayor Fulop a Rising Star in N.J. Politics

Aryeh Lande ‘18 and Zach Colton-Max ‘17

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has been a on a meteoric rise in New Jersey politics since securing a seat on the Jersey City Council in 2005. After securing his Council seat, Fulop won the mayoral election of Jersey City in 2013. In addition to being a politician, Fulop is also an alumnus of Golda Och Academy – then Solomon Schechter Day School – and he acknowledges the important role the school played in his development.
“[Schechter gave me] every opportunity to learn and develop,” he said.
Fulop’s political leanings are shaped by his family’s experience. He is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and his family believed very strongly in faith. As a result, Fulop incorporates the lessons Judaism taught him into his outlook on society and politics.
One major issue that Fulop tackled successfully in Jersey City was paid sick leave. He was able to grant salaries to Jersey City employees who are taking time to care for someone at home. He does not want employees to have to choose between caring for an ill family member or sacrificing their salary.
He did not comment on the ability of this policy to be implemented statewide, only mentioning that other municipalities experience similar issues.
In response to questions about tax policy, Fulop offered a new approach to incorporating tax cuts and revenue boosts.
“In Jersey City we’ve been able to cut taxes by about 2 percent while increasing revenue and expanding services,” he explained, “because we’ve been successful at growing the ratable base. We don’t have to increase the burden on taxpayers if we invest intelligently, partner with the private sector where possible, and focus on growth.”
This new approach has been incredibly effective in Jersey City, improving their ability to invest in underserviced areas. Fulop is most proud of the growth he has spurred in these areas as well as the economic stability of his city, leading in the raising of its credit rating twice.
Although he is a registered Democrat, Fulop he believes in looking past party ideology to achieve what is best for the city.
“There is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage,” he said, quoting former New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia.
Fulop prioritizes the betterment of his city and helping others as a civic servant. If helping others requires him to break through his party platform, he has no problem in doing so. That said, Fulop believes the Republican party is headed in the wrong direction with Donald Trump at its helm.
Fulop is in a very interesting position in regard to the election, because Trump has used Jersey City in one of his most controversial and questionable comments. Earlier this year, the presumptive Republican nominee for President described the events of 9/11, seeing citizens of Jersey City cheering as the towers fell. Fulop wants to make it very clear that this portrays Jersey City’s citizens unfairly, as it did not happen.
Fulop has also been critical of Chris Christie’s governorship.
“I don't think it has been successful overall,” he said. “I think his term started with some problems and those issues still exist.”
From a state-wide outlook, it is easy to see Fulop emerging as the Democratic front-runner in the next gubernatorial election. He has all the characteristics that brand him as a poster-boy ticket: he is young, intelligent and a veteran of the U.S. army. Additionally, he has an impressive track record and has proven his effectiveness across many offices of government. Furthermore, many people feel Christie has hurt the state more than helping it and so a Democrat looks increasingly likely to be the next governor.
If Fulop can win the Democratic primary, he stands the greatest chance of becoming our governor. This will be a great achievement for GOA, the Fulop legacy, and New Jersey Jewry as a whole.

Glowing Colonies - Ms. Sonet

Guest Contributor
Ms. Gabrielle Sonet - Golda Och Academy Upper School Science Teacher

I have been teaching a long time. Every once in awhile, something out of the ordinary happens in a class that makes you pause. These are the moments that go into your treasure trove of teaching. One such moment happened this year with my senior biology class during the Transformation Lab.
During this lab, we attempt to get a bioluminescent gene from a jellyfish to be taken up by E coli bacteria. When a cell takes in a foreign gene, it is said to be  transformed. If the E coli successfully takes in the jellyfish gene, and if grown on the proper medium, the E coli will glow. Since E coli reproduce quickly in an incubator set to 37 Celsius,  you will actually see glowing, round, colonies of E coli.
The students had been warned that transformation efficiencies are very low. In other words, cells have to be coaxed into taking in foreign DNA, and most, will not. In most years, one or two groups out of six, at most, achieve transformation. About an hour before class, I quickly peeked into the incubator, where all the stacked petri dishes lay, with a UV flashlight, looking for signs of glowing colonies. Because the petri dishes were stacked and bound by tape, it was hard to get a good look at each dish, but I saw no glowing. I knew the students would be disappointed.
Class began and each group got out their petri dishes and began looking at the results. Suddenly, I heard raucousness at one table.
“Could it be?” I wondered, as I ran over with the UV flashlight in hand. There they were; two plump colonies of glowing E coli. This crazy discovery, however, was not the special moment; that came next. In what seemed like seconds, completely spontaneously, the petri dish with the glowing colonies was placed on a chair. Next, the chair was heaved into the air like a bar or bat mitzvah and the class began singing “Siman Tov U Mazal Tov.”
Within seconds, they were out the door of our lab, racing down the hall to Mr. Gerstle’s lab. I’ll never forget the stunned look on his students’ faces when  my students burst in, heaving  a petri dish up and down in the air, singing. After showing off their beautiful glowing colonies, it was down the hall to the STEM wing of the building. Now, they wanted to show their glowing colonies to Dr. Jeng. They burst into his class right before the bell, continuing on with their same celebratory antics. But the story doesn’t end here.
The next class, we were sitting quietly, engaged in some discussion, when our lab door burst open. In came Mr. Gerstle’s class, acting just as my class had before, singing and cheering. On the chair was a petri dish. Only, there were no glowing colonies. Instead, their petri dish was completely covered in white, spindly fungus that looked like cotton candy.
Contamination. Maybe not the desired results, but equally impressive!
So, why do I count this story as one of my moments? It was so spontaneous, so genuinely filled with joy at getting good results and, frankly, where else could a story like this take place, except at GOA? This is why I love teaching here!
Best of luck to my senior biology class: Jordan Broder, Seth Gleaner, Rafi Jones, Leia Kessler, Heather Kizner, Rachel Kramer, Rayna Landa, Dylan Mendelowitz, Daniela Shapiro, Talia Solomon and Noah Susskind.

Honors-Components: Beneficial?

Sam Russo ‘18

Scribal Arts Judaic Studies Course with Rabbi Adam Gindea
Image courtesy of Golda Och Academy
While the concepts of Judaic Studies electives and honors-components are foreign to many parents and students from other schools, they are major parts of the Golda Och Academy curriculum.
The Judaics Studies program at GOA is viewed positively by the consensus. One major benefit of the Judaic Studies elective system is its effectiveness. Surely, in a system where students are able to choose their classes, they will absorb more information and be more engaged in class.
To many, the proof of the positive net benefit of honors-components would seem to be as straightforward as the elective system; of course, it is best for students who choose to take more responsibility and work to have the ability to do so, and in the process, receive a slight grade boost. However, to some GOA students and perhaps even faculty, the issue is a bit more complex.
To fully understand why some people see honors-component courses as problematic, it is important to look to the purpose of honors classes. They aim to give more motivated and advanced students a place to learn more in-depth about topics and to move at a faster pace. They also require more work.
Some students, however, claim that such courses do not fulfill what is required to make them honors classes. For example, many honors-component students are required to read an extra passage at home; however, in doing so, they are not always given the space in class to discuss or further explore and internalize what they have read.
A final facet of their argument looks at classes like Bioethics or Jews in America, in which students are required to write a research paper as the only requirement for honors. In these classes, while students surely do more work, they may not necessarily be learning more material than their college-prep counterparts.
Despite all of this, proponents of honors-component classes argue that students are able to develop a more complete understanding of topics through additional readings and that assignments based on the readings help students reflect on and absorb what they have learned.
Additionally, because many honors students look at texts in their traditional Hebrew, they hone their skills in that area as well. Finally, research papers help to give students exceptionally strong and in-depth understandings of particular topics in the class.
Overall, honors component classes have both positives and negatives, as seen through each side of this argument. Because the Judaic Studies curriculum is reassessed every year, this is just one more area in which it is of utmost importance that students are open and vocal about their opinions.

The Black Lives Matter Movement Matters

Theo Deitz-Green ‘19
There comes a time when a people can no longer tolerate injustice; when they must unite to stand up and and fight for its end.
The Black community has suffered centuries of systemic social, economic and political
oppression. After a series of videos came out showing police officers shooting unarmed black
men, seemingly with undue cause, a group of young activists joined together to form the Black
Lives Matter movement.
Black Lives Matter initially spawned out of anger that George Zimmerman was acquitted for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin. The movement rapidly began to
expand, leading protests in the aftermath of the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and of
Freddie Grey in Ferguson, Missouri.
The organization has created a lot of controversy, especially due to its name, “Black Lives Matter.”
Many think that the name “Black Lives Matter” is in and of itself problematic and believe that it should be changed to “All Lives Matter”; however, the name, which comes from a hashtag tweeted after the acquittal of Zimmerman, has come to represent the fact that many black people feel that their lives simply aren’t worth as much as white lives in America.
To respond to someone saying “black lives matter” with “all lives matter” is missing the point. In America, no one is questioning the value of white lives. White people don’t have to walk down the street afraid that they might be stopped by police for looking suspicious. White parents don’t have to talk to their children about how to handle themselves in dealing with police officers.
These are realities that black people have to live with in America and to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement by saying “all lives matter” is to spare one’s self of having to deal with the difficulties of reality in America, to hide behind a wall of words.
Of course members of the Black Lives Matter movement think that all lives matter, but the question in America is not about the value of a white life. They believe that American society is rigged against black people.
The fact is that, in America, black people are disproportionately pulled over while driving, fined and arrested. For example, an FBI investigation of the Ferguson Police Department found that while 67 percent of the population of Ferguson is black, 85 percent of the people pulled over by police between 2012 and 2014 were black, 88 percent of the cases involving police use of force involved black people and 93 percent of the people arrested were black.
Nationally, the disparities are just as troubling. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black people are incarcerated at “nearly six times the rate of whites.” In addition, about “five times as many whites are using drugs as African
Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of
The Black Lives Matter movement has done an extraordinary job of bringing much-needed attention to these issues. In fact, they, along with other black rights activist groups, have pushed the issues of institutional racism and criminal justice into the 2016 presidential race.
Members of the group have been interrupting campaign events, protesting and meeting with candidates to press them as to how exactly the candidates plan on dealing with the issues facing black Americans today. The activists have been very persistent in asking for specific details and not just vague promises because they believe that it is easy to make promises during the campaign but that real action needs to be taken.
Black Lives Matter has been very successful in bringing attention to these issues, especially in the Democratic primary race. Following protests and meeting with activists, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have made racial equality central parts of their campaigns, both backing criminal justice reform.
While there is still a long way to go until true and complete justice for black Americans is
reached, it is comforting and inspiring to see the power and influence people can have when they
come together to stand up and demand change, when they stand up and say “yes, black lives do


How Much Homework?!!!

Alissa Lampert ‘18

If you walk down the high school hallways towards the end of the day, you might hear the repetitive groan of, “I have so much homework tonight!”
The constant complaint high school students have is that they are overworked, stressed and have too much homework. This homework keeps some unlucky victims up past midnight, scrambling to complete assignments.
However, it is hard to understand the sheer amount of the homework GOA students receive in comparison to students from other schools, states, or even countries.
Recently, a handful of sophomores traveled to Mexico for the second half of our exchange program. A trip that was packed to the brim with excursions, we were blissfully unaware of the homework that was piling up on our friends’ desks back home. With seemingly little time in the day to even breathe, it was nearly impossible to even consider cracking open our textbooks.
Our Mexican buddies, however, did not seem to be missing any work. They went on almost every trip with us, meaning they missed many school days and had little time at night to complete work. Confused, we asked how they were able to miss all the school days with little consequences. Later, we learned that they receive little to no homework on a daily basis.
The GOA sophomores who got to experience a completely different lifestyle compared the homework dilemma in each school.
Sophomore Rebecca Landau commented on the fact that while a policy similar to the one in Mexico would be nice, there are other ways to combat the issue.
“While in Mexico, I was informed that the little amount of homework they had was the work that they did not complete in school,” she said. “While I think that would be a great policy in our school, I know that it is unreasonable. I feel that homework should never be on something you have not already learned and should only be to help for a better understanding of the work learned in class.”
Sophomore Sarah Cehelyk offered a different point of view.
“Overall, I feel that the average amount of homework we get is relatively fair taking into consideration the fact that we are a college preparatory school,” she said. “However, there are a few points throughout the year that we, as students, are bombarded with ridiculous amounts of work.”
Cehelyk believes that although homework is necessary, nightly “busy work” is excessive.
She also said that in order for students to manage their time more wisely and help the pile of assignments shrink, teachers need to be in better contact with each other and the students. Many teachers do not use the test calendar or only put major assessments up, but Cehelyk says that students would fare better if essays, projects and quizzes were up there, too.
Sophomore Rachel Berger echoed Cehelyk’s thoughts and commented that while homework is necessary to an extent, there are some core subjects that are more demanding than others and those are the main subjects that should be giving homework. Excess homework in less taxing classes puts too much stress on overworked students.
GOA students understand that the school cannot adopt the Mexican school’s lenient policy, but many feel that there must be a middle ground.

There must be some way to stop students from getting five hours of sleep a night before a test because they had no other time to study.

"Mezuzah-Gate” at GOA

Iris Berman ‘18

High School Student Council members hang the first 3D-printed Mezuzah in the בית כנסת as part of the new Mezzuzot Project. Credit: Golda Och Academy

Golda Och Academy prides itself for its accepting and pluralistic attitude that makes it so appealing to newcomers. The mission statement of the school states that GOA’s dual education gives all the benefits of a complete secular education in addition to “enriching students with the rich traditions and learning of Jewish texts and practices.”
This made it all the more shocking for many students when they realized a lack of mezuzahs on nearly all doorposts in the school, including the Beit Knesset. Beyond its biblical and Halachic significance, a mezuzah is a public acclamation of Jewish pride and faith.
Sophomore Nesya Nelkin commented that after coming to GOA in eighth grade from a more religious school, she was shocked at the lack of mezuzahs.
“In a Jewish institution where we are learning holy Jewish texts we should be surrounded by mitzvot of the Torah,” sophomore Rafi Turitz-Sweifach said. “The missing mezuzahs take away from the lessons we are learning in class.”
In an environment that thrives on the diversity of students from all different Jewish backgrounds, the lack of mezuzahs can be uncomfortable for those who are more observant.
A student who wished to remain anonymous due to the fear of judgement on this questionable issue, stated that while taking standardized testing at GOA she noticed people from a traditional Orthodox school.
“[I watched] as a girl walked through a doorway in our school and, as her custom, she reached out to kiss a mezuzah,” she said. “[I felt]so awkward and embarrassed that a Jewish day school could not provide a mezuzah and create a comfortable environment for all different types of Jews.”
Sophomore Rebecca Landau experienced a similar type of situation.
“When the Israelis from Merchavim came to visit our school they were confused as to why we didn’t have a mezuzah specifically in a place of prayer.”
She said the experience was “embarrassing and sad” for the school’s community.
This issue has a seemingly simple reaction: to install new mezuzot; however, this approach has turned out to be much harder than it seemed.
In previous years the mezuzahs within the school had not been kosher. Vice President of Student Council and sophomore, Sam Russo, said that last year Student Council realized the problem and decided to reach out to the administration. After a lengthy process, he said they have finally gotten 75 scrolls and have had the STEM lab print 3-D mezuzah cases.
“We are getting ready to hang them and we will hopefully have them up by the end of this school year and definitely by the beginning of the next year,” he said.
Russo continued to say that Student Council will be discussing this issue at their upcoming meeting, as this is still “very much in progress.”

GOA students are lucky to be in an environment that adapts to their needs as they come. Hopefully with the installation of new mezuzahs, GOA will continue to be a welcoming place for people of all different backgrounds. 

The Dreaded Placement Test

David Wingens ‘19

            As the end of the school year quickly approaches and the workload only increases, one thing many students have on their minds is what the next year of classes has in store for them. The process of placement differs by department, but generally, the department chairperson and teachers look at students’ grades and participation and, in some cases, placement tests.
The goal of a placement test is to see how well a student can retain knowledge and apply what they have learned in class throughout their high school career to the question at hand. Only Math, Spanish, Language Arts and Social Studies have placement tests. Even though they are not supposed to, these tests almost always lead to added stress.
            Teachers often attempt to comfort students by emphasizing that the placement exam is only a small piece of the placement equation and that class work and participation are just as important. However, students still feel stressed and study, which creates additional unnecessary stress for students. No one can blame a child who is being told that he or she is about to take a test that could decide what class they end up in next year and possibly for the remainder of high school for being stressed out.
Along with that, placement tests can put college-prep students at a big disadvantage if they have not learned all of the material on the test, leading to an educational system with little mobility for kids who feel that they belong at a higher level. This is more true for math than any other subject because it is naturally more fact-based and leaves little room for abstraction.
Possibly the most disliked part of the placement test idea is that a large part of the decision is made based on a moment in time. While a student’s normal grade is an average of his or her work throughout the year, the placement test tests a student’s ability in a specific timeframe and a specific skill. There does not seem to be a whole lot that a placement test can tell that is not already evident from classwork.
            That being said, placement tests might just be a necessary part of the placement process. They are a good baseline to see what each student knows when put on an even playing field. In addition, they never actually require studying. While many students do study for their placement tests, it is rarely, if ever, necessary for success. This is because the goal of a placement test is not to judge one’s knowledge on details, but to see what basic knowledge is retained, what the larger picture is about a given topic and what a student is capable of doing when applying this knowledge to an unfamiliar prompt. For this, placement tests, generally speaking, work. They are usually more about using prior knowledge and thinking logically to solve problems without having to memorize anything.

            While they may have their flaws and they seem at times to be unnecessary and stress-inducing, placement tests are an integral part of the placement system and they provide much needed information to the department heads and teachers when placing students into the appropriate class for them.

Five Predictions for the 2016 MLB Season

Etai Barash ‘18

The 2016 Major League Baseball season has officially started and is already a very exciting season. Plenty of things have shocked fans, made them laugh and made them stare in awe at the physical and mental attributes of baseball players. Not all of these events were expected, but there are some things that one can expect at the end of the season; five of them to be specific.
Outfielders Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will finally win MVP Awards in the same season. The 2012 Rookies of the Year, of the Anaheim Angels and Washington Nationals, respectively, both improved their home run numbers and batting averages last season and it’s safe to say that they could improve on more than just those statistics in 2016. Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale and New York Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom will win the Cy Young Awards for their respective leagues. Both very underrated pitchers, these two know how to come up clutch in crucial situations and strike out a handful of batters each.
The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to reach the National League postseason for the sixth straight season, but it won’t happen. The competition from Pittsburgh and Chicago are too tough of competitors in the Central Division and revamped teams such as the San Francisco Giants and Nationals are more likely to win either the first, second, or both league Wild Card spots. St. Louis has a mix of young talent and veteran leadership, but compared to rival rosters, it’s unlikely that they play October baseball.
While the Cardinals will take a back seat this fall, the Boston Red Sox will not. A rejuvenated pitching corps and a young nucleus of upcoming superstars will jumpstart the Sox to the top of the American League East. Offseason pitching acquisitions like starter David Price and closer Craig Kimbrel will greatly help a pitching staff that was ranked toward the bottom of the league last year in terms of earned runs allowed.
Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is finally going to use that bug repellent to get rid of the injury bug. There is no possible way he will suffer yet another mid-season injury that cuts his season short. Instead, the Marlins’ slugger will smack a career-high 50 home runs, based off of talent alone.

The defending champion Kansas City Royals are still the powerhouse they were last year. The only key bat they lost during the offseason was infielder Ben Zobrist, who signed with the Cubs, and their pitching stayed relatively the same. The entire Royals lineup is still filled with All Stars who, for some reason, don’t strike out. Expect them to be holding up the World Series trophy at the end of the 2016 Fall Classic because they’re repeating and, maybe, will grow into one of baseball’s greatest dynasties.

ReLAX: GOA’s Lacrosse Team’s Latest “Scoop”

Matt Nadel ‘17

The four major professional sports in the United States are football, baseball, basketball and hockey, but there is one sport that is particularly on the rise. Ever since fans began desiring more fast-paced play from their favorite sports, lacrosse has become very popular in American high schools.
“In lacrosse, things are constantly happening and changing,” Golda Och Academy’s Director of Athletics, Janet Herman said. “Players have to be constantly on the lookout for plays and opportunities to develop.”
With this philosophy in mind, Herman and the current GOA senior class have come together to create the first ever girls’ lacrosse team in the West Orange school’s 50-year history.
The girls’ lacrosse team was first a club in the spring of 2015, when over 20 sophomores and freshmen signed up. Seniors could not sign up because the club became a team while they were on their semester abroad in Israel, however the girls who did join the team have made some very strong bonds.
“We’ve made a lot of new friends,” sophomore attacker Carly Paternite said, “It’s been a very fun ride.”
The team’s coach for this season is Kyle McCourt, who has been with the team for the past two years. A lacrosse coach since 2009, McCourt is poised for an exciting season.
“As a team we came to an agreement that we'd like to see two things by the end of the first season as a program: improvement and fun,” McCourt explained. “We want to look back and see if we had a positive experience at the end of the season.”
“Together, everyone achieves more,” freshman defender Dena Feldman said, when asked about the team’s core values. “We may not do the best, but we’ll have fun trying.”
Golda Och has six games on the schedule and although it is not a long season, the players value the team experience.
“[Our lacrosse team] is my whole life,” junior defender Mikayla Talmud said, which just goes to show the dedication that each player puts into this team.
Although fun and dedication are important, improving enough to win games is, of course, the ultimate goal.
“They need to find a way to push through adversity,” McCourt said, “and I do feel that there is a core group of girls who are capable of doing that.
“They just need to step up and be confident so that the rest of the team can be on board as well.”

It is a tall task to tackle, but no matter what happens, this team will be fun to watch. 

The Life of Pablo May Be The Death of Kanye

Eran Shapiro ‘18

Finally, after three years of waiting, on February 14, Kanye West released his
seventh studio album, “The Life of Pablo.” West, in the months leading up to the album’s
release, excited many of his fans by making numerous changes to the album.
Originally the album was changed from “So Help Me God” to “SWISH,” then to “Waves,” and finally “The Life of Pablo.” He also had changed the track listing several times and teased his fans by releasing numerous singles, but not promising they would make it on the album. By the end, “The Life of Pablo” was released with 18 tracks and numerous guest vocalists.
The album begins with “Ultralight Beam,” a song featuring vocals by Kelly Price and a verse by Chance the Rapper. The gospel choir vocals in the background helps carry West’s message about his faith in G-d.
West then continues with “Father Stretch My Hand Pt. 1 & 2,” which follows the religious theme presented in the first track. In part 1, West talks about his past, his car accident, his parents divorce, and the death of his mother. In part 2, Kanye features Desiigner, an artist who is famous for his style and flow that mimics rappers like Bryson Tiller and Young Thug.
The tracks “Low Lights” and “Highlights” also emphasize West’s praise of God and his good fortune while “Wolves,” an edited version of a previously released single, uses religious themes to complement notions of his mother’s likely disappointment in West’s current persona.
The song “Famous,” which features Rihanna, is one of the best tracks on this project. Rihanna personifies fame in the intro by saying, as fame, “man I can understand how it might be kinda hard to love a girl like me.” West then continues throughout the song to struggle with the consequences of fame. Although West’s verse on this track is deeply narcissistic, its humour and egotism gives it an authentic Kanye feel.
“Feedback,” a song reminiscent of what many fans disliked about West’s sixth album, “Yeezus,” features poor auto-tune and the typical West defense that describes his own erratic behavior as ingenuity.
“Freestyle 4,” a track sung by an intoxicated West who is erratic and making poor decisions, is yet another example of what fans deride in West, as it is fueled by filler lines that talk about his money and his lavish lifestyle. There isn’t anything original about this track in terms of who Kanye is or how the track is produced.
“I Love Kanye,” a track that has no beats and only vocals, features West commenting on how he is viewed by many people today. It emphasizes the reaction people give him for a lot of his current work.
“Waves,” Kanye’s 10th song on “The Life of Pablo,” features Chris Brown and focuses on a metaphor of waves being like the emotions of someone who is brokenhearted. “Waves,” one of the album’s most popular tracks, also features a complex beat that pulls the listener in and superbly expresses the mood of the track.
Similarly “FML,” one of the darkest tracks on this album, has an intense but simple beat that mirrors the cold lyrics on this song. West speaks about his depression and his struggles to stay faithful to his wife. “FML” features a chilling hook by The Weeknd.
“Real Friends” is a track where ‘Ye puts his relationships and his fame into perspective. He takes an honest look at who is to blame for the downfall of many of his relationships. West concludes that many people take advantage of his wealth by trying to ask him for things and using their “friendship” for their own benefits.
However, he also talks about how he is constantly putting work before his friends and family. He blames himself for losing touch with his friends by always forgetting to call and for ignoring the people he cares about.
“No More Parties In L.A,” is hands down one of the best tracks of the entire album. It not only features a great verse by Kendrick Lamar, but it also has one of the album’s best verses. This track, as compared to the others, best exemplifies the “old Kanye,” as West’s introspectiveness is heavily felt and his passion about real issues is clear.
West pays homage to two very influential artists, André 3000 and Lauryn Hill. It is a very personal verse that is also clever and witty. He also speaks on deep issues like parents manipulating kids during custody battles. Although sprinkled into this track there are some fairly forgettable lines like, “Get money, money, money, money/Big, big money, money, money, money” it is still forgivable because of Lamar and West’s well-written and well-delivered verses.
West’s swagger is on full display in the diss track, “Facts” and is aimed squarely at Nike. West takes this opportunity to thank rival company Adidas and brag about his new shoe line. He also talks about becoming more successful than the Michael Jordan shoe line. The beat on this track is great, as it samples Father Children’s “Dirt and Grime” for the intro and outro and then has a gangster rap beat for the duration of the song.
The album’s final song, “Fade,” though, failed to capture the energy of the two preceding tracks and serves as a rather disappointing conclusion. Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign’s guest spots on the track fail to redeem its hollow lyrics, which feature corny lines and a meandering point. Oh, and it also doesn’t exactly feature West at all as he doesn’t have much influence on the song; when he does show up, his vocals are blurred out by the track’s Rare Earth sample.
Overall, “The Life of Pablo” is a pretty disappointing album. It didn’t have any direct or
powerful themes and it crashed and burned in a lot of the same areas “Yeezus” did: filler lines, low-quality beats and little direction.

Many diehard Kanye fans will still attempt to use the strong points of this album to defend him, but it seems as if West already peaked.

Spotlight on a Baseball Rookie: Jamie Gutterman

Ari Esrig ‘17

Q: What is it like being new on the high school baseball team?

A: Having not played baseball since seventh grade, I was not really sure what to expect when joining the baseball team. However, the transition has been relatively easy due to how some of the players on the team were my teammates on the basketball team, so they helped me out with a lot in the beginning of the process.

Q: What is your biggest strength as a player?

A: I feel like my biggest strength as a player is my speed. I have always been a fast player in any sport I play, so I am looking forward to using my speed to my advantage during games.

Q: What is your biggest weakness as a player?

A: I am still getting used to all the new signs, fundamentals and mechanics.

Q: What’s your favorite position on the baseball field?

A: I really enjoy playing centerfield and leftfield.

Q: If you had an introductory song that would play when you came up to bat, what would it be?

A: If I had an intro song, it would be “Stronger” by Kanye West because it makes people feel stronger, hence the name.

Q: If you could give yourself a nickname, what would it be?

A: If I had to have a nickname, it would be “cheetah” because of how they use their speed to their advantage.

Q: What are your personal goals for the season?

A: My personal goal for this season is to maintain at least a .250 batting average, because hitting is one part of my game I feel I need to work on the most.

Q: What is your favorite part so far about playing for GOA’s high school baseball team?

A: My favorite part of playing for a GOA team would have to be how all my teammates are Jewish, which may not seem like much, but I have never played on a sports team with other Jews. Not that it has ever gotten in the way of anything, as I was not ever mistreated for my religion, but it just feels good to have teammates that have a lot in common with you.

Diversity in Superheroes: Progress Made and the Long Road Ahead

Dina Doctoroff ‘18

Comic book fans have always seen superheroes as role models; people who always do the right thing and whose actions should be emulated. Many of them started as outcasts and went on to save the world, providing inspiration for the common reader.
A major issue, however, was that these superheroes did not actually look like the people who read the comics. There was little diversity in comic books.
An African American child would look at the comics and would not see anybody who resembled him externally. Since none of them looked like him, it was difficult to relate to the characters he was seeing and be inspired. Superheroes of other minority religions, races and sexual orientations were similarly underrepresented.
In response, the first African American superhero – Black Panther – debuted in 1966 in the “Fantastic Four” series of comics. More progress has been made since then: the first superhero to come out as gay was Northstar in “Alpha Flight” and the character’s wedding in June 2012’s Astonishing X-Men #51 was the first same-sex wedding in comics history. Most recently, “Deadpool” director Tim Miller recently revealed that fan-favorite Deadpool was pansexual. All of these were received incredibly warmly by the public.
The reveal of the new female Thor, who has replaced the traditional male Thor, is also making headlines all over the country.
This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Tho,” writer Jason Aaron said. “This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe. But it's unlike any Thor we've ever seen before.”
Thor’s Avengers teammate, the traditionally caucasian Steve Rogers-iteration of Captain America, is also being replaced by Sam Wilson, a black superhero previously known as Rogers’ sidekick, the Falcon.
The diversity issue of comic books and movies is slowly being solved, but we still have a long way to go. According to the Harvard Political Review, many issues remain during this new diversifying stage.
The female characters are often depicted with revealing and hypersexualized clothing that male characters would never wear. There is still some shock that a woman is able to replace the much-loved Thor, and that the comic books featuring her are making more money than those of her predecessor.
Many people are also complaining that the only reason major motion picture studios are making these films and comic books is to pander to wider audiences and, in turn, make more money.
The issues being raised are valid and the creators of the movies and comic books need to listen to the fans and fix them.
A good start to solving these problems is to create superheroes that aren’t just there for the sake of avoiding controversy. For example, comic book writers can’t just write in a black female superhero to keep the black female minority happy. They need to develop this character, like they would with any other.
The movie “Sucker Punch,” directed by current “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder, which includes many unique, non-DC or Marvel female superheroes, treats them as sexual objects and nothing more.
This movie should have treated its characters the way Peggy Carter is treated on the current television series, “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” The titular Agent Carter is a strong female character, who is multifaceted and very well-written. She is a perfect example of diversity gone right, as is ABC’s other Marvel show, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which includes many well-developed minority characters who are not just there for diversity.
Although it is come a long way, the superhero industry obviously is not done diversifying yet.

Israel and the United Nations

Alex Beigelman ‘18

            Israel is the most developed, socially-open and only democratic country in the Middle East. In the international community – the United Nations, specifically – however, Israel is not treated fairly and not given praise for their work in furthering modern, liberal ideals.
Throughout history, there have been over 75 UN resolutions condemning Israel. It is remarkable that a democracy that prides itself on being fair and accepting can receive these condemnations while closed, brutal regimes like those in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries which have committed genocide, enslaved people, begun horrific wars, instigated instability and other violations of international law have received none.
While Israel is being condemned, the Palestinians and Hamas have never been forced to deal with condemnation or international investigations. In fact, the UN has created six different departments or funds for Palestinians exclusively including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People.
            One of the earliest actions of the United Nations, after its creation in 1945, was the partition in British Mandate Palestine. In the early days of the organization, Israel was neither a focus nor an enemy. The UN sided with Israel in 1956 on the issue of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Then the Six-Day War occurred.
In its aftermath, the controversial Resolution 242 tried to create peace in the Middle East. It was unanimously accepted and established the concept that land could be swapped for peace, leading to successful peace negotiations with Egypt and Jordan. Since then, however, the UN has become increasingly anti-Israel. The Communist-Arab voting bloc pushed for many anti-Israel and anti-semitic rulings and votes throughout the second half of the 20th century.
            In 2006, former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan said, “Supporters of Israel feel that it is harshly judged by standards that are not applied to its enemies and too often this is true, particularly in some UN bodies.”
Since the turn of the of the 20th century, the UN has revealed its anti-Israel bias on a regular basis. In 2003, three emergency sessions were called to condemn Israel’s security fence. In September of the same year, the UN held the International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People. In 2004, a UN envoy to Iraq said that Israel is “the great poison in the region.” In 2005, a special committee on Palestinian rights urged members of the UN to boycott Israel. The UN has even approved of anti-Israel propaganda to be made using UN funding and on November 29, the UN holds a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. UN hospitals and schools have been used by Hamas to attack Israel, as well.

            Although the United Nations was originally created to keep the world safe and began as a very neutral and fair organization, it has taken a massive turn. Now, it mainly functions as a platform for hating Israel and spreading the message of the Palestinians. The UN opposes settlements, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights and many of Israel’s policies. The Israeli delegation fights hard to combat these allegations and attacks and does so with only a few consistent allies. Among those is the United States and it is crucial to Israel’s security that America continues to support Israel on the international stage. Without their backing in the security council, who knows how many more condemnations Israel will be forced to face.

Iran: A Gamble At Best

Kim Robins ‘17

The hottest topic in global politics last summer was the deal reached between Iran and five global powers, including the United States. The Iran Deal, as it is known in the public sphere, requires that Iran curb aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief and removal of other provisions that bar Iran’s access to weapons and trade.
The first major milestone of the deal - the lifting of sanctions - occurred on January 16, when the international community determined that Iran was making the necessary efforts to cut back its nuclear capabilities. The Western world is proud of this step and of the general progress the international community had made in reincorporating Iran into the global fold.
I, too, support these political and diplomatic efforts. I am skeptical, however, as to whether or not Iran is truly ready for the sanctions relief, political freedom, $100 billion in frozen assets, ballistic missiles and other amenities that this deal grants the nation.
            The world has already seen that Iran does not cooperate with efforts to control its nuclear program, which many believe is dangerous and is producing weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Since 1990, Iran has violated six UN Resolutions pertaining to its program and has resisted other nations’ attempts to inspect its suspicious facilities. Only in 2012, when the international community placed serious sanctions upon Iran and crippled its economy, did Iranian leaders agree to negotiate over its nuclear agenda.
In fact, Iran has already violated parts of this nuclear deal. Within weeks of the deal’s announcement in July, Iran was caught buying weapons from Russia and has since tested long-range missiles to be launched at Israel, Saudi Arabia and other nations.
In the coming months, Iran will be in a position to wreak even more havoc upon the Middle East. British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other international leaders are worried that the $100 billion dollars in assets that Iran can now use will go toward funding terrorism. Iranian leaders have close ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and other organizations that threaten to destroy the United States, Israel and other Western nations and cultures. Given Iran’s history of neglecting its own impoverished people, these assets - which equal a quarter of Iran’s gross domestic product - will only hurt the world.
The world is doing too much at once. We are in such a rush to welcome Iran back into the global fold that we are deliberately ignoring its government's pointed attacks at the U.S. and Israel, aid to terrorist organizations and continued human rights abuses and oppression of minority groups. Everything that Iran will gain from this deal - money, ballistic missiles, international support and even many of the centrifuges it was forced to shut down temporarily - may come back to hurt us and the Iranian people.
Since its implementation in July, too many people have adopted the attitude that the Iran deal is past us and that as long as both sides comply, the world will stay safe and Iran will remain in check. A nuclear Iran, however, is not a political game. It is an existential threat to our nation, people, culture and livelihood. We must be willing to take it seriously and not to give Iran the benefit of the doubt when its extremist leadership has proven time and time again that they are not to be trusted. A nuclear Iran - or even an Iran with the money, military power and political and economic freedom that we are now granting it - must be controlled at all costs.

Iran and its people are valuable to the global economy and society. We can certainly help Iran end its isolation by following the parameters of the deal, but we also have to be wary of the nation and its motives. In order to make the nuclear deal work, we - the citizens of the Western world - have to be vigilant and only acquiesce to Iran’s demands once we are certain that they meet ours.

Spotlight on Israel: Pastor Kevin Brennan

Aryeh Lande ‘18

This year, The Flame has explored a variety of approaches within the Jewish community to the topic of Israel. Through our “Spotlight on Israel” section, we have learned about Israel through the eyes of Ilana Rossoff and her work with left wing organizations. Additionally, we have heard the story of Aviela Deitch, her attachment to the land of Israel and the lifestyle of settlers on land that draws international attention. In this issue, we will understand Israel through a new perspective: the eyes of a non-Jew.
Often we may feel as if the Israeli struggles are only discussed within the Jewish community, but they are debated across the spectrum of religion. Enter Pastor Kevin Brennan, a retired Evangelical pastor who lives in Mountainside, N.J. Pastor Brennan grew up in Queens, N.Y. in the early 1960s in an Irish-Catholic home. By the time he was of college age, Brennan had made the decision to dedicate his life to the service of G-d and enrolled at Evangel University, earning a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as a minor in Biblical Languages and Philosophy.
Brennan’s interest in Israel stretches far back to his childhood. In his youth, he listened intently to his father’s stories of serving as a British Officer in what was then Palestine during the British Mandate. Stationed out of Afula, Palestine, Brennan’s father helped to dismantle the Mandate and oversaw the transition to the Jewish state.
Brennan is very proud of his father’s role in establishing the modern state of Israel. His connection to Israel deepened during his time in the seminary, as he was awarded a scholarship to study Archaeology by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There, he immersed himself in Jerusalem’s history, living in the Old City for about a month. This solidified his appreciation of Israel and drew him closer to the land.
Pastor Brennan shares that, in the New Testament, the Jewish People are likened to an olive tree rooted in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In that belief, gentiles who believe in the Jewish Messiah are likened to wild olive shoots grafted into that olive tree. Through this teaching, Brennan believes in Israel as a homeland for the Jews. It was G-d’s intention to give the Jews the land and so he feels obligated to uphold God’s teaching.
Compelled by piety, Brennan is driven to lead trips to Israel and to show his coreligionists the Holy Land. Over the past 27 years, he has led a remarkable figure of 250 people to Israel. Christians, like Brennan, are drawn to Israel, as it is the place where the Hebrew Bible begins and ends. In Genesis, G-d promises Abraham land in Canaan and the final Prophets envision a time when Jerusalem will be the capital of the earth. Brennan feels Christians can only truly understand the Bible if they travel to the places mentioned within. According to Brennan, only through experiencing the surroundings and feeling a part of history can they gain the crucial understanding of the Bible.
Brennan’s admiration of Israel has spilled over into his life, transforming him into an active advocate for Israel. He admires Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to cope with the many issues within his nation and he respects and even demands Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, as it was Divinely-mandated.
He supports Israel’s claim to the land and believes that peace will only be achieved with the Palestinians if they recognize Israel’s right to exist. His love of Israel has also turned into a defence of the Jews at home and abroad. He is horrified that anti-Semitism could exist within our own borders after the tragedy of the Holocaust and is incensed that so many people are jumping to blind hatred. He believes that anti-Semitism is a relentless force of pure evil and darkness and we should be prepared to combat it with equal potency. It will be an enduring fight, but we must have faith.
Pastor Brennan truly exemplifies that Israel is not just a Jewish issue, but rather it is a multi-religious issue. There are many layers and the conversation on Israel must include all sides and religions, if we want a lasting peace in the region. Brennan has dedicated his life to serving G-d and, through his devout humility, he has felt a love for the land and people of Israel.

By turning to G-d, Brennan found an unconditional love for Israel that he radiates passionately onto others.

Feature: Alissa Lampert

Sam Russo ‘18

Imagine you’re underwater. It’s late at night, pitch-black and you have no idea where you’re trying to go. There’s only one other person with you. On top of all of that, your oxygen is running low.
This was the situation in which sophomore Alissa Lampert, a budding marine biologist, found herself last summer when she went on a night dive with one of her friends.
“We  look[ed] around for a while [underwater],” Lampert said. “Nothing [was] happening. We [didn’t] see anything… so we went up, and we looked around and we [saw] our boat way in the distance. The first thing I saw was the island near us, and I got really scared [because I did not see the boat].” 
Eventually, the pair located their boat, but instead of going underwater, they “had to swim back the entire way because [they] didn’t have enough air or directional skills to go back down.”
This unique experience was part of a three-week long summer trip that Lampert took over the summer of 2015. Each day began with the thirteen campers waking up on their catamaran at about 6:30 a.m. They would eat breakfast and then head out for their daily scuba dive. Afterwards, they would do a variety of activities, ranging from hanging out on the beach to snorkeling and doing aquatic research. At night, Lampert would return to her cozy bed: a bench on the boat’s deck. For meals, she was forced to survive off of canned soup because of the limitations of Kashrut.
Despite some of this discomfort, Lampert was able to have an amazing time and get a lot out of her trip. One of the most surprising parts of hearing Lampert’s recounting of her experience was the positive way in which it changed her.
Rather than talking about how she became a better diver or now has more knowledge of marine life, the first thing Lampert noticed was her improved independence.
“I’m definitely more independent,” she said. “I guess [now] I can talk to people… Because it wasn’t just my dad feeding me things and I had to… help other people with their problems underwater.”
Before this experience, she “couldn’t really talk to adults… [and] talking to new people was always hard” for her, but being pushed to make 13 new friends forced her expand her boundaries.
When asked why she decided to participate in this program, Lampert explained, as if it was the most natural thing in the world or a normal childhood experience: “I started diving when I was eight, and… ever since then I loved it.”
As she thought back to her first time diving, in a hotel pool, Lampert recalled that she knew from the start that scuba diving was right for her. In fact, the instructor said that she was able to stay underwater the longest of anyone her age he had ever seen before.
For some people, their hobbies may include sports or music or dance, but Lampert seems to have found her niche.

For her, diving serves as both an educational opportunity and also an escape for the world when she is surrounds herself with complete silence under the water. It seems fitting that after eight years of practice and dedication, Lampert was able to reach a major landmark this summer while on the trip of a lifetime: her 100th dive.

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